43 new species discovered in Madagascar

High number of unknown millet and insects

A still nameless species of Malagasy firing millipedes (Aphistogoniulus sp.). The poisonous animals shown here are about 15 centimeters long and have a striking warning color © K. Schütte, Zoological Institute and Museum Hamburg
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The biodiversity of the island of Madagascar is legendary. Now nature has once again caused surprises here: 43 new species of millipedes and insects have been discovered by German researchers in the southeast of the island.

Despite the high and worldwide unique biodiversity, the island of Madagascar is still unexplored in many areas, in recent years, even some new species of monkeys have been discovered here. A particularly high proportion of animal and plant species occurs only in Madagascar and is therefore in great danger. Therefore, the island state is one of the top ten focal points of biodiversity. Particularly threatened is the biodiversity in the study area of ​​a coordinated by the University of Antananarivo inventory project in the southeast of Madagascar. Here, of the unique, different habitats usually only mosaic-like remains exist.

The researchers of the project, including scientists from the Museum Koenig, Bonn and the Biozentrum Grindel and Zoological Museum of the University of Hamburg, therefore have the goal to capture at least parts of the unique and threatened diversity for science, before they have disappeared forever. Two PhD students, Kai Schütte from Hamburg and Thomas Wesener from Bonn have now discovered unusually many new species of millipedes and insects unknown to science.

Millet-foot as big as an orange

The diversity found was unique: Wesener found a total of 29 new species of millipedes, including eleven new species of giant pear-footed pelts. The millipedes of Madagascar provide not only by eating dead leaves and wood for indispensable humus production as a nutrient for the forest, many of the newly discovered species occur even in a very small distribution area, are micro -endemic. Frequently, other species were already found in the next forest a few kilometers away.

Various giant gonorrhea (Sphaeromimus musicus and Zoosphaerium blandum). The animals feed exclusively on dry leaves. The species shown here are found in the dry forest of Madagascar and reach about the size of Pingpong Balls. T. Wesener, ZFMK

As a peculiarity of Madagascar are considered rolling into a complete ball giant ball miller. This very old group of animals, whose ancestors already lived at the time of the dinosaurs, comes with especially many unique species on Madagascar. In Madagascar, the animals reach the size of an orange in some species and thus the green world record. Furthermore, all species living in Madagascar in both sexes have Zirporgane, which are likely to serve the mating and reproduction. display

Random find in the leaf litter

Sch Antte discovered eight new species of stick insects, two praying mantises and four dragonflies on insects. Only by chance was one of the stick insect species found. She was in a handful of leaf litter collected as feed for a spectacular new species of 15-centimeter, blood-red and black-colored fire mill.

Many of the species detected will be part of the Red List of Endangered Species issued by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). New dragonflies were discovered mainly in a remote lowland rainforest. These habitats have become rare, as they are often the easiest to use by humans.

Diversity threatened

Unfortunately, almost all forests in Madagascar are seriously endangered. Estimates suggest that 90 percent of Madagascar's natural vegetation has been destroyed by humans in the last 2, 000 years since the island was colonized. The consequences for humans and nature are already catastrophic. The 20 remaining forests now visited by the researchers are often very small and separated by large, deforested areas. Large areas only consist of hostile steppe landscapes that are unsurpassable for plants and animals in the residual forest fragments.

If the destruction continues to the same extent as in the past, many of the forests and their unique inhabitants will be gone in ten years. This would make many of the only species extinct there before they are even discovered. Now at least there is still the possibility to name the species found, to capture their peculiarities and way of life, to conserve them for posterity and perhaps to intensify the few protective measures through the results, some of the unique ones To get livelihoods with its inhabitants.

(Zoological Research Institute and Museum Alexander Koenig, 29.08.2007 - NPO)